By : RACHNA TYAGI
Lexus, the luxury wing of Japanese car manufacturer, Toyota, is celebrating its sixth anniversary in India. What better time to ask Naveen Soni, President, Lexus India, about their new model line-up, new buyers, expansion plans, and all that is underway to strengthen their position in the APAC market.
TOS: Lexus has a good mix of models right now; what new models can we expect to see this year? Also, do you believe that sedans are making a comeback?
NS: Lexus boasts of a well-rounded portfolio of vehicles, catering to the mobility needs of our guests. From time to time, we assess the market needs and introduce appropriate models. Most recently, we announced the launch of Lexus RX during the Delhi Auto Expo’23 which will make its debut in India this year.
SUVs are the flavour of the season in every market, whether it is the mass market or it is the luxury market. Sedan lovers are there. A sizable number of people who are coming into the market are preferring SUVs over sedans. Lexus will introduce LM towards the third quarter of this year which would be an ideal vehicle for travel between cities within a range of 200 KM. With roads improving people would like to use such vehicles which are mobile offices.
TOS: Are all Lexus models ready to meet the regulatory norms that kick in on April 1, 2023?
NS: The new norms by the government are appreciated as they cater to a cleaner greener environment. At Lexus, the technology used has always been the future ready and our portfolio already adheres to the norms laid down by the regulators. This was possible as the long-term road map for such norms was made clear by the government in advance.
TOS: Are you still facing supply chain constraints? If yes, what steps are being taken to resolve the issue?
NS: The industry has faced a huge challenge due to a shortage of semi-conductors. But, there is a positive momentum that is being built now on the supply side. The worst may be over, but the most important thing going forward now is how can we have the right product, at the right time, at the right place. So, we have been working hard in terms of improving the supply situation.
TOS: What has the demand across India been like for Lexus and who are your buyers mainly?
NS: Lexus' footprint in India continues to grow at a pace that we have envisaged. Post pandemic the luxury car market has seen a revival due to pent-up demand and the YOLO effect. Our primary segment has been businessmen who buy our vehicles for comfort and luxury. However, there has been a definitive change in the buyer profile, with the average age of ownership reducing from our past experience. Surprisingly, the newer generation is opting for a luxury car as their first buy – a phenomenon not experienced in the past when consumers would start with a mass-market product, or a second-hand car and graduate to a luxury vehicle with the fourth or fifth car. We see younger and more evolved guests preferring to own a Lexus.
TOS: What steps are being taken in order to rope in different sets of buyers so that many more can experience Lexus products?
NS: At Lexus, we build relationships and create experiences. We have introduced many programs that help us extend the Lexus experience to a larger audience base. We have been introducing many initiatives that connect us to our guests, be it touch points like Lexus Virtual Dome, Meraki – Lexus brand space, etc, that help our guests experience Lexus even in locations that do not have a Guest Experience Centre (Dealership) or Lexus Life, our signature program that engages with our guests and gives access to the best of luxury. We will continue to innovate to enthral our guests and be connected with them.
TOS: Tell us about your new initiative 'Lexus Life'.
NS: We have launched a program called ‘Lexus life’ that celebrates Lexus. Lexus is not just a car, it is an experience and Lexus Life as a program has been created to enhance the experience. Under this program we reach out to our existing guests and offer privileges and experiences which enhance and compliment their lifestyle. Celebrating our sixth anniversary in India, we will be building on our ‘Lexus Life’ program to offer experiences that are intrinsic to the brand. We are excited to introduce our guests to a range of services and experiences that will take us one more step closer to them. These programs have garnered immense popularity amongst our guests, and this has prompted us to continue investing in making this program a success.
TOS: Tell us about your plans for expansion of GECs (Guest Experience Centres).
NS: We originally had seven outlets to start with, Over the last year, we have added five Lexus service points. We are also opening smaller brand spaces called Meraki.
At the beginning of last year we had 56 percent of the market covered with the seven main cities we are present in. We added five service points to this and already have added one Meraki in Gurgaon. With this, by the end of the year, we are planning to be close to 85-86 percent of the market. Beyond this, we have also launched Lexus Virtual Dome – an online experience touch point that will enable out guests to experience Lexus virtually. Our plan is to open more of these service points, which could take us to around 90 percent of the luxury car market, wherever Lexus is present.
TOS: What are the no. of units that you're looking at selling this year? Also, do you plan on adding subscription models to enhance sales?
NS: Presently, the luxury car market should see a relatively greater increase than compared to the previous year. Pre-pandemic, in the year 2018, it included a sale of about 40,000 units and now, post-pandemic, we are confident to see a higher pickup with the market back on track. Having experienced great growth in the industry, our outlook is buoyant for the coming year.
We want to grow the customer segments that we are present in and would like to add professionals and corporates to our existing segments by offering more ownership plans such as leasing and subscriptions which allow greater flexibility for such buying segments.
TOS: You’ve spoken about strengthening your position in the APAC region to become the top Lexus market by 2025, are those plans on track?
NS: Yes. India is a very important geography for Lexus and we are invested in creating a long term value to our guests in India. Currently, we are well on the path on leading India into the top three markets for Lexus in APAC region (Excluding China and Japan).
TOS: What new technologies is Lexus really kicked about on their newer models and how soon can we expect to see them on their upcoming models?
NS: Globally, Lexus has announced its plan to be fully electric by 2035. Lexus is committed to an electrified future – not just electric. Consumers should have an option to choose the technology that suits their requirement.
In India we have a full hybrid line-up except the Lexus LX, our flagship SUV, and we feel that hybrid is best suited for India, considering the current eco system. We will be assessing the various models that suit the infrastructure and the consumer needs and introduce suitable models in the future.
Excited to see nexus of lexus :)